Self-experimentation

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Self-experimentation refers to the special case of single-subject research in which the experimenter conducts the experiment on himself or herself. Usually this means that a single person is the designer, operator, subject, analyst, and user or reporter of the experiment.

Biology and medicine[edit]

Human scientific self-experimentation principally (though not necessarily) falls into the fields of medicine and psychology. Self-experimentation has a long and well-documented history in medicine which continues to the present day.{[1]}

For example, after failed attempts to infect piglets in 1984, Barry Marshall drank a petri dish of the Helicobacter pylori from a patient, and soon developed gastritis, achlorhydria, stomach discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and halitosis.[citation needed] The results were published in 1985 in the Medical Journal of Australia,[2] and is among the most cited articles from the journal.[3] He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2005.

There is an interesting evaluation[clarification needed] in the context of clinical trials and program evaluations.{[4]}[5]

Psychology[edit]

The self-experimental approach has long and often been applied to practical psychological problems. Benjamin Franklin recorded his self-experiment of successively devoting his attention for a week to one of thirteen "Virtues", "leaving the other Virtues to their ordinary Chance, only marking every Evening the Faults of the Day."[original research?][6]

In psychology, the best known self-experiments are the memory studies of Hermann Ebbinghaus, which established many basic characteristics of human memory through tedious experiments involving nonsense syllables.[citation needed]

In Self-change: Strategies for solving personal problems,[full citation needed] M. J. Mahoney suggested that self-experimentation be used as a method of psychological treatment, and recommended that clients be taught basic scientific methods, in order that the client become a "personal scientist."[this quote needs a citation]

Chemistry[edit]

Several popular and well-known sweeteners were discovered by deliberate or sometimes accidental tasting of reaction products. Sucralose was discovered by a scientist mishearing the instruction to "test" the compounds as to "taste" the compounds.[7] Fahlberg noticed a sweet taste on his fingers and associated the taste with his work in the chemistry labs at Johns Hopkins; out of that taste test came Saccharin. Cyclamate was discovered when a chemist noticed a sweet taste on his cigarette that he had set down on his bench. Aspartame was also discovered accidentally when chemist Schlatter tasted a sweet substance that had stuck to his hand. Acesulfame potassium is another sweetener discovered when a chemist tasted what he had made.

Leo Sternbach, the inventor of Librium and Valium, tested chemicals that he made on himself, saying in an interview, “I tried everything. Many drugs. Once, in the sixties, I was sent home for two days. It was an extremely potent drug, not a Benzedrine. I slept for a long time. My wife was very worried.”[8]

Physics[edit]

Charles Dalziel studied the effects of electricity on animals and humans, and wrote The Effects of Electric Shock on Man, a book in which he explains the effects of different amounts of electricity on human subjects.[9] He carried out experiments on human subjects, including himself. He also invented the ground-fault circuit interrupter or GFCI, based on his understanding of electric shock in humans.

In 1998 a British scientist, Kevin Warwick, became the first human being to test an RFID as an implant to control surrounding technology.[10] In 2002 he went on to have an array of 100 electrodes fired into the median nerve of his left arm during a two-hour neurosurgical operation. With this implant in place, over a three-month period, he conducted a number of experiments, including the first direct electronic communication between the nervous systems of two humans.[11]

In fiction[edit]

Examples in classic fiction include the tales of The Invisible Man and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In each case the scientist's unorthodox theories lead to permanent change and ultimately to self-destruction.

Self-experimentation is a common trait amongst mad scientists and evil geniuses in more contemporary fiction and is part of the creation story of many comic book supervillains, and some superheroes. For example, the Spider-Man villain The Lizard lost his arm in a war (other versions vary), and experimented with reptilian DNA to try to grow it back; however, the therapy caused him to mutate into a half-human-half-reptile creature. The Fantastic Four were created when the Four were testing Reed Richards's new prototype rocket and were exposed to cosmic rays, giving them super powers. Other cases include the Man-Bat, the Ultra-Humanite, the Green Goblin, and the animated Justice League version of Cheetah.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Who Goes First?: The Story of Self-Experimentation in Medicine by Lawrence Altman
  2. ^ "Medical Journal of Australia". Mja.com.au. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  3. ^ Van Der Weyden, Martin B; Ruth M Armstrong; Ann T Gregory (2005). "The 2005 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine". Medical Journal of Australia. Medical Journal of Australia. 183 (11/12): 612–614. Retrieved 2007-01-28. 
  4. ^ Self experimenting doctors, Rebecca Ghani
  5. ^ David E.K. Hunter, "Daniel and the Rhinoceros", Evaluation and Program Planning Volume 29, Issue 2, May 2006, Pages 180-185 (Program Capacity and Sustainability). [1]
  6. ^ "Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Part 2". 
  7. ^ Gratzer, Walter (28 November 2002). "5. Light on sweetness: the discovery of aspartame". Eurekas and Euphorias: The Oxford Book of Scientific Anecdotes. Oxford University Press. pp. 32–. ISBN 978-0-19-280403-7. Retrieved 1 August 2012. 
  8. ^ "Little Helper", Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker, June 16, 2003, pp. 71-72. [2]
  9. ^ Dalziel, Charles F. (1956). The effects of electric shock on man. Washington, D.C. : U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Office of Health and Safety Series: Safety and fire protection technical bulletin; no. 7. 
  10. ^ "CNN story: Is human chip implant wave of the future?". 1999-01-13. 
  11. ^ Warwick,K, Gasson,M, Hutt,B, Goodhew,I, Kyberd,P, Schulzrinne,H and Wu,X: “Thought Communication and Control: A First Step using Radiotelegraphy”, IEE Proceedings on Communications, 151(3), pp.185-189, 2004